THE Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) says it is working to develop a model that can be used to ‘reality check’ flood threats created by the construction of the controversial Inland Rail across the agriculturally important Condamine floodplain.
Despite fierce criticism of the ARTC in recent weeks for its failure to engage with landholders on the Condamine floodplain or assess other possible route options, Inland Rail program director Simon Thomas said discussions with the community in March had identified flooding as a major concern.
ARTC called a meetings with farm associations in Toowoomba yesterday and held a separate meeting with Condamine floodplain farmers in Millmerran today.
AgForce Grains president Wayne Newton said what ever modelling was generated, it needed to be ground truthed with landholders.
“ARTC told us the Inland Rail will be built so there is no increased flood heights, no increased period of time that flood water is retained, and there is no increased velocity of water flow caused by the infrastructure,” Mr Newton said.
This week’s meetings follow an embarrassing slap down of ARTC following an emergency meeting in Warwick on October 5, where Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester was forced to jerk the inland rail builder back into gear over its disastrous handing of consultation with the community.
Those concerns were amplified over the weekend when disillusioned landholders called for the arbitrator to be appointed and an independent review conducted to ensure that all of the options are being properly considered and that the selection process is one in which the community supports.
Mr Thomas said ARTC had been working with hydrologists to develop a model that could be reality checked with the community. He said discussions had focused on flood risks, flood history, current flood modelling and data; and, proposed measures to minimise the impact of flooding.
“This feedback will help us refine our modelling so we can provide the community with confidence that our assessment of the flooding risk takes into account their local experiences and understanding of the way water behaves in this region,” he said.
“The final route between Yelarbon and Gowrie has not been determined, but it is important that we respond to those questions and concerns raised by the community.
“Open and transparent communication with the community is an important part of these studies as we work to get it right identifying the best Inland Rail alignment option.”
“We’ll be working closely with local members, councils and the community to keep people regularly informed.
“We will continue to work closely with the community; sharing important information as we work to further assess and study route options that will ultimately support the Australian Government's final decision on the preferred Inland rail route between Yelarbon and Gowrie.”
Those options include a route to Karara and on to Gowrie, and a route using the existing rail corridor to a 5km bypass close to Warwick to access the Allora line and using that existing rail corridor to ultimately connect with Gowrie.
ARTC has been previously slated for sale by the federal government, adding weight to the argument why a wholly owned ‘green field’ track is preferable in terms of value to the incorporation of ‘brown field’ tracks. ARTC already owns some 10,000km of track, including track on the proposed inland rail from Melbourne to North Star near Moree, in northern NSW.